Question #403

Was batpism prophecied in the Old Testament? Did Jesus appear in the flesh in the Old Testament?

I was wandering if you had any idea if baptism was ever prophesied in the Old Testament. A few of us are also wandering if Jesus ever appeared in the flesh in the Old Testament as well.

The Answer:

There are no prophecies in the Old Testament that prophesy of New Testament per se. However, there are certainly types of in the Old Testament for which the antitypes are New Testament baptism. The first is 1 Corinthians 10:1-6: " 1For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3and did all eat the same spiritual food; 4and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them: and the rock was Christ. 5Howbeit with most of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6Now these things were our examples. . . ." The second occurrence is 1 Peter 3:20-22: "20that aforetime were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water: 21which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ; 22who is one the right hand of God, having gone into heaven; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him." In each of these passages an Old Testament event is likened unto New Testament baptism.

There is also what might be considered as an indirect prophecy of baptism in the New Testament – the coming of the forerunner of Christ. The phrase "prepare the way" or better "clear a path" is used as a command in Isa 40:3; 57:14; 62:10. Only in Isa 40:3, however, is the Lord the one who is coming (in the other passages it is the people returning to the land), but there it is the people rather than a "messenger" who is to prepare for the Lord's arrival. Malachi 3:1 apparently interprets the "messenger" here as identical with the "voice" in that passage, which the New Testament sees as fulfilled in John the Baptist (Matt 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23). John the Baptist is also understood in the New Testament (Matt 11:14; 17:10–13; Mark 9:11–13; Luke 1:13–17) to fulfill the prophecy of Elijah in Mal 4:5, who is announced there to precede "that great and dreadful day of the Lord." The thrust of John's message was "Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 3:2), calling upon his hearers to submit to "the baptism of repentance unto remission of sins" (Mark 1:4). Certainly all that John preached and did was included within the prophesy of his coming.

As a part of the Jewish system the Jews participated in many washings. Hebrews refers to that practice. "Baptisms" in Hebrews 6:2 is not clear, with some contending that it refers to Jewish washings references in Hebrews 9:10, while others contend that it refers to Christian baptism, as in Eph. 4:5. Robert Milligan well expresses the argument for the latter in his commentary on Hebrews. His closing comments are:

I am therefore, on the whole, inclined to the opinion, that it is to these three baptisms [1) baptism in water, in which all penitent believers who confess Christ are introduced into his body; 2) a baptism in the Holy Spirit, administered by Christ himself to all who are really begotten by the Spirit and born of water; and 3) a baptism in fire, by means of which the wicked will all be finally overwhelmed in sufferings] that our author here refers. If this is not his meaning, then I think we must accept the first hypothesis as advocated by Bleek, Hofmann, and others.

Thus, in the Hebrew letter there is at least one and possibly two references to the ancient Jewish ablutions. Another possible Old Testament practice, though not mentioned in scripture, was the baptism of Gentile proselytes. However, William Beckham in his Dictionary of Religion, observed that there was so much obscurity and doubt about the Jewish habit of baptizing proselytes and their families that nothing could be proved or argued from it.

None of these Jewish practices were prophecies of Christian baptism, nor were they types of Christian baptism. Their significance is that when both John and Jesus came, taught, and baptized, the Jews were familiar with the concept of washings related to cleansing.

The second question raised relates to appearances of Christ in the Old Testament, in particular, whether Christ ever appeared in the flesh in the Old Testament. There are appearances of Christ and God in the Old Testament. Such appearances are called "theophanies." "Theophany" comes from a compound Greek word, derived from the Greek noun for God and the Greek verb for "to appear." Thus, a theophany is an appearance of God. In its broadest meaning the term has been applied to many forms of divine revelation in both Testaments, whether occurring in a vision or dream or in normally perceptible realities such as unusual natural phenomena, appearances of the Deity in human form in the OT, or the incarnation of Christ in the NT. The use of the term theophany is restricted here to manifestations of God in temporary forms perceptible to the external senses, and thereby excludes divine manifestations in dreams or visions and the incarnation of Christ. A good discussion of theophanies is found in Eerdman's Bible Dictionary is reproduced here.

THEOPHANY (Gk. theopháneia "appearance of God").† The visual manifestation of a deity to human beings, often accompanied by an auditory revelation. Theophanies recorded in the Bible are largely limited to the Old Testament, particularly the Pentateuch and prophetic books. The literary genre of theophany consists of vivid poetic accounts employing extensive mythological imagery and archaic (or archaizing) style; typically, Yahweh approaches from some distance, with cataclysmic effect on all creation (e.g., Deut. 33:2; Judg. 5:4–5; 2 Sam. 22:8–16 par. Ps. 18:7–15 MT 8–16]; Ps. 68:7ff. MT 8ff.]; Hab. 3:2–19). Other less stylized accounts appear to have no set pattern to their elements or timing, though they are often the vehicles for important teachings to the people of God. Consequently, authorities sometimes differ on whether a particular event is a true theophany.

Some Old Testament theophanies begin when Yahweh "appears to" or "meets" someone without preamble. This is the case at Gen. 17, when the covenant of circumcision is established; ch. 18, when Abraham dickers with God over the fate of Sodom's inhabitants; Exod. 4, when Yahweh meets Moses on his journey back to Egypt; and Judg. 13, when the birth of Samson is predicted.

Many biblical theophanies feature a strong anthropomorphic element. These include Adam and Eve hearing the sound of God walking in Eden (Gen. 3:8), the "three men" who visit Abraham at Mamre (18:1–2), Jacob's wrestling (32:24, 28), and Moses' view of God's back (Exod. 33:18–23). The angel of the Lord, who conveys divine messages (Gen. 16:7–12; 21:17–18; Num. 22:32–35), sometimes turns out to be Yahweh himself (Gen. 18:16–17; Judg. 13). This makes for a curious situation: initially Abraham did not recognize the Lord among his visitors (Gen. 18:2–8), yet when God reveals himself the patriarch registers no surprise (vv. 9–33). Such comfortable relationships between humans and the wholly other are characteristic of the encounters recorded in Genesis.

God also commonly appears in such natural phenomena as clouds, storms, lightning, and fire (Exod. 3:2–6; 13:21; 19:18–19; 24:15–18; Isa. 30:27–28). Such representations of deity were standard among the religions of the ancient Near East. The important difference between biblical and other ancient accounts is that, while Yahweh's presence is signaled by the forces of nature, he is not, for instance, the storm itself but its creator.

On occasion the power or anger of God is depicted as a consuming fire (Num. 11:1–3; 16:35; 1 Kgs. 18:38; Isa. 30:27, 30, 33), which also serves as the context out of which his voice speaks (Exod. 3:2–6; Deut. 4:33; 5:24). The account of the founding of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 15) would not be considered a theophany per se by some scholars; while it does feature the voice of God and representations of his power (smoking fire pot and blazing torch; v. 17), the covenant ceremony takes place while Abraham is in deep sleep.

Fantastic representations of God are found in what might be called eschatological theophanies, all of which occur when the human witness is in a state of ecstasy. Included are the vision leading to Isaiah's commission as a prophet (Isa. 6:1–4), Ezekiel's visions of "the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord" (Ezek. 1), and John's description of the risen Christ (Rev 1:12–16).

Much more has been written on this subject, but this is sufficient to provide a knowledge of the basic concept and enable the bible student to be alerted when such an incident appears in the passage being studied.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)